If receiving Christmas cards were a hobby, it would be a hobby I’d embrace and never let go of.
I’ve always preferred receiving Christmas cards to birthday cards. They’ve always been more important to me, but over the years have caused me a few dilemmas. Do you recognise any of these?
How to display Christmas cards
My parents always strung Christmas cards along our lounge’s longest wall. I’d stand underneath the line and count them every day. And if any of the cards overlap, I’d make it known so they could be adjusted. I wanted every Christmas card to give the same pleasure to visitors as I got out of them over the festive period.
I’d tell my school friends how many Christmas cards we had and keep a record of the number every year. The most we ever got was 106. So many that the line they hung on came down. I cried so much that my parents had to console me with chocolate.
Don’t hang too many Christmas cards on one line. If they are overlapping, put up another line.
These days, we display cards on a card rack. The overlapping doesn’t seem to bother me as much as it used to. However, I seem to prioritise those cards I see as more festive, so they don’t get pushed to the back of the rack.
How do you display Christmas cards?
Christmas at school
During my early schooling years, my class would send Christmas cards to each other. Back then, Christmas cards came in different sizes in one box. The first dilemma was matching the correct-sized envelope to the right card.
Usually, you’d end up with a couple of cards that didn’t fit the envelopes you had left or, on rare occasions, have cards left with no envelopes.
These days, Christmas cards seem to come in packs and are all the same size, so the dilemma of matching envelopes with cards has gone. But if you don’t have enough envelopes, dig out the spare cards from last Christmas. It’s unlikely people remember what Christmas card you sent them last year.
Christmas cards for school friends
We’d make a pillar box out of cardboard, cotton wool, paints and some sticky-back plastic. We were all encouraged to post Christmas cards into the box, and on the last day before the Christmas holidays, our teacher would sort them and distribute them out.
I’d always be super excited to get a pile of cards with my name proudly written on the front of the envelopes. I’d open them all before rushing home to hang them with the rest of the cards, careful not to snap the line.
If there wasn’t enough room on the line, I had to wait patiently for my father to put another up. Sometimes, this could take days, and I’d get frustrated that my cards were not on display.
After Christmas, I’d keep the cards I liked the most and make gift tags out of them for the following Christmas.
It wasn’t until the 1870s that Christmas cards began to display some of the festive images we see today.
Back in the 1970s (when I was sending cards to those in my class), I loved certain cards. These include the ones I thought were associated with Christmas. Those showing scenes that had Father Christmas, Christmas stockings, robins, snow, and Christmas trees were my favourites.
And then there were cards I didn’t particularly like because I thought they had nothing to do with Christmas. These included ones with scenes of horse-drawn carriages, fox hunting, St Paul’s Cathedral, or a hand-drawn poinsettia.
My favourite classmates always got the cards I associated with Christmas, but my dilemma was who should get the cards I didn’t like. Easy! The classmates I didn’t bother with much (or those I didn’t particularly like) got the boring ones. Back then, you could always tell who didn’t like you much from the type of card they sent you (or so I thought).
Back in the early 20th century, some Christmas cards were like postcards. Many years ago, I picked up some on eBay. This one is my favourite.
Postmarked Dec 24th 1912, I love the humour on this postcard. I’m not sure it would go down well these days. What do you think?
I can’t make out the postmark on this postcard, but the stamp on it tells me it’s from the U.S.A.
And here’s another early one from the U.S.A., postmarked Dec 23rd 1913.
Postal addresses were so short back then.
The best era for Christmas cards
In my opinion, the 1980s were the best era for Christmas cards. Here are a few of my favourites.
I have a scrapbook that includes some of my favourite Christmas cards.
The boyfriend dilemma
Finally, here’s a Christmas card from 1988 that was sent to me by my then-boyfriend.
Unfortunately, Bob went on to break my heart on New Year’s Eve, yet I kept the Christmas card he sent me. I wonder why?
I hope you enjoyed my brief history of the Christmas card.
Do you send and enjoy receiving Christmas cards? Have you ever had any dilemmas with them? Share them in the comments section.
This post was originally published in 2020 and has been updated and republished.
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I probably talk or think about death more often than others.
I don’t talk about sex as much as I do death, but is that a problem when entering the autumn years of your life?
Many people I know don’t like talking about death. Do you? Many don’t enjoy discussing sex but is it easier to talk about than death?
Is it odd or natural to think and talk about death and sex simultaneously? You tell me.
Once upon a time, sex was a subject people didn’t like talking about. I’m going back to my early years here when sex was a hush-hush subject, almost taboo.
There was little information available about sex while I was growing up. The reaction I once got from my elders when I asked, ‘where do babies come from because I know the stork doesn’t bring them?‘ was like watching the faces of those watching the gory scene in a horror movie. ‘Is it something about a man and a woman solving a puzzle?‘ I went on to ask.
When I asked those questions, I got looks of shock, horror and embarrassment. My grandmother walked out of the room while my mother and father tried to change the subject quickly.
During the lockdown, my partner and I talked about death. But it was only while updating our wills. We couldn’t get past the point where we would talk about our deaths and what we wanted to happen when that time came. ‘We’ll talk about that another day,’ I told myself, yet death can come to any of us anytime. Can you imagine the problems we cause by not talking to each other about death?
Although nobody likes talking about death, we read, write and watch it happening in books, on television, in theatres and cinemas. It seems natural when reading, writing or watching it, but when talking about our deaths or the death of somebody we know, there comes the point where I hope somebody else will take the lead, and the subject will quickly change.
Why am I talking about death?
I have written about death here, but the truth is that what I call the otherside of death (where the person dying is not me) is approaching; it becomes a subject we can’t avoid. I have an aunt who is nearing the end of her life.
At 95 years old, some say my aunt has had an excellent innings. She loved life, but she wouldn’t like the life she is now living. I think I followed her for the love she had for life. However, she has spent what is left of her life in a hospital bed for the last three months. Her final words to me before she went into a deep sleep were, ‘I want to go home.’
I can relate to how she feels. Whenever I have been ill and not at home, I’ve always wanted to go home. If we allow it, being in familiar surroundings can help. Well, it always works for me. But does it help when nearing our final days?
As she faded in and out of consciousness, my aunt reacted to some voices in her hospital room yet ignored others. I wondered if she could choose which voices she wanted to respond to and which she chose to ignore? Does she have any control over what she hears while her life slips away?
Why do some people die quicker than others?
Truth be known, I wouldn’t say I like watching my aunt’s death being so drawn-out. The family all agree that she’d hate to be at the point she is – having to live the drawing out of the last days of her life in a deep sleep in a hospital bed. ‘There’s nothing else we can do for her except keep her comfortable,’ the medical staff tell us. ‘But keep talking to her because hearing is the last sense to go.‘
Really? Is hearing the last thing the dying sense? How can they possibly know? Have some of these staff lived previous lives, or has somebody who has left this world told them that’s what happens? It seems odd to say. I can not work out how they know.
When my father died in October 2020, his death was swift. He died within 24 hours of being taken ill. There were no weeks of being unconscious in a hospital bed. Yet when my mother died in September 2015, she took many weeks to die after we were told there was nothing else they could do. Why do some people die quickly, yet others seem to take weeks, months or years to pass?
Are those who have long-drawn-out deaths having to pay for what they may have done during their lives, or is there something or someone who has overall control over how long it takes for us to die? Do some linger because there is some unsettled business to attend to, or do we have no power over how long it takes to take that final breath?
Where do we go just before we die?
Years ago, I believed there was a waiting room we entered when dying. We sat there waiting for our name to be called before going through another door that took us on our next journey. Some remained longer in that waiting room than others. But while we wait, we are occasionally permitted to briefly go back through the first door to check what is happening in the world we are leaving. Perhaps we’re not quite ready to go because we’re waiting for somebody to come and say goodbye?
I’ve often asked myself why my mother took so long to pass away. Did she not want to go, or was she told she had to wait her turn? In life, we queue. Do we have to queue to die?
When we die, are we leaving behind those still alive, or do the living leave us behind?
I probably talk or think about death more often than others. Many people I know don’t like talking about it. How often do you talk about death?
Perhaps I should have talked more about sex? But would anyone have wanted to discuss it with me?
What are your thoughts on why we dislike discussing death or sex?
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At 17-years-old, I had no idea if I’d ever encountered another gay person. I probably had, but I lived during times when being out and gay could put your life in danger.
I had my suspicions about who I thought was gay, such as the bus driver who lived on the next street. Even though his bus wasn’t going in the direction I wanted, I’d ride around on it so I could see him and hoped he’d notice me.
There was one way I thought would guarantee me meeting gay people, but it meant breaking the law – a law I thought was stupid. What was wrong with a 17-year-old lad answering an advert in Gay News?
South Wales area – a genuine, nice guy in his early 40s, looking to meet other guys who haven’t come out yet. Maybe we could help each other? Write to Richard at Box 223D, Gay News, London…
Richard remained on my mind for a few weeks after reading the advert. Like me, he hadn’t ‘come out’ as gay. But unlike me, he was over the age of consent, 21, when sleeping with someone of the same sex was not illegal.
The constant bragging about which girls he had slept with from Michael, my best friend, eventually persuaded me to put pen to paper and respond to Richard’s advert. While Michael could sleep with as many girls as he wanted, I thought it unfair that it was illegal for me to meet and sleep with other guys.
I can’t remember what I said in my letter to Richard, but I lied about my age. I had to; otherwise, he may not respond. Or he could have reported me to the police. Fortunately, his advert did not mention sending a photo, so I didn’t have to prove I was 21.
It took me a week to post my reply. Every time I approached the postbox at the bottom of the street, police sirens would sound in my head.
The thought of Richard having my home address and turning up unannounced also terrified me. But the more Michael bragged about who he had slept with and questioned why I was still a virgin, the more courage I got. Finally, I posted the letter after convincing myself that I’d run away to London if Richard turned up. I’d be safe with so many other gay people living there.
A month later, not only had I not had a reply from Richard, but I’d also placed an advert in the lonelyhearts column of Gay News.
21-year-old gay guy looking to make new friends and meet his first boyfriend. Currently living in South Wales, but looking to live and work in London. Age/looks unimportant, but please send a photo. Write to Rob at Box D867, Gay News, London…
Two weeks after my advert appeared, I came home from work to find my mother holding an envelope.
“It’s for you. Whose handwriting is this? I don’t recognise it,” she examined.
Terrified that she was about to tear the letter open, I snatched it off her and ran upstairs, shouting that I’d got a new pen-pal. Fortunately, my mother knew that I had pen-pals and liked to write letters, although she had failed to notice that the stamp on the envelope was British, not foreign.
I was trembling at the thought that my mother could have forced me to come out of the closet had she opened the letter. I’d convinced myself that if the family found out I was gay, I’d be homeless.
Studying the envelope closely, I was too scared to open it and placed it in the same place I’d hid my copies of Gay News – under the carpet under my bed.
Two weeks later, as I climbed into the passenger seat of a car, I was greeted with the words ‘Hi, I’m Richard. I’m a little nervous, but it’s finally good to meet you, Hugh.”
I was meeting who I thought was the first gay person in my life.
But the following day, I would be threatened again with coming out of the closet.
“Who’s car did I see you getting into yesterday?” asked Michael.
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What’s stopping you from writing and publishing your first or next book?
What was it that helped you write and publish your first book?
You may be surprised by what it was that helped my guest Stephen Havard write and publish his first book. I’d never have guessed. But not only did it help Stephen write and publish his book, it also helped him with his mental health problems at the time.
A very warm welcome on Hugh’s Views And News to Stephen.
It’s January 2011, and I was sitting at my desk at work feeling depressed. It had only just gone 4.30, and it was already starting to get dark, the grey drizzly day now being consumed by blackness. The advent of the shortest day last month hadn’t taken effect yet, and my mood was as dark as the picture outside the office window.
Christmas had been great; time with the family and a period away from the laptop was just what I needed. Unfortunately, this had only been a brief respite, and here I was once again sitting before a computer in a job I hated more and more by the day.
I was stuck in the rat race with no way out, and it was draining the life out of me more and more. I needed something to spark me into life; the only question was what, though?
My job was the main issue, but the option to leave wasn’t possible right then. I had a young family to support and couldn’t just jump ship. I’d have to persevere with it for the time being and find another outlet to lighten my mood.
That outlet came unexpectedly to me a few weeks later as I browsed the BBC website and noticed that the quiz show ‘Pointless‘ was looking for contestants.
I’d loved quizzes from an early age and had even auditioned for another quiz show, 15-to-1, without success after leaving university in 1997. Over the intervening years, my passion for quizzing had remained, regularly going to pub quizzes and still avidly watching every quiz show on the TV. I had never applied for another quiz show, though.
Was this a sign?
Pointless was one of my favourite quiz shows and something that played into my relatively obscure knowledge. This contestant call which was now staring back at me was surely telling me to apply and once again try and get onto a TV quiz show.
I spoke to my wife, who was seated beside me and urged me to apply and follow my dream. She knew how much I hated my job, how it affected my mental health and made me quite hard to live with at times. She wanted me to be happy and believed that the simple act of applying for this quiz show would help in that regard.
So that very moment I applied, buoyed by the enthusiasm of my wife, I spent hours perfecting our application in the hope that what I was writing would be what the show wanted. I say ‘our application’ as my wife had agreed to be my partner on the show as well.
Now I’m not the most patient of people, and as the weeks passed without any news, I thought the worst. Had my attempt at TV stardom fallen at the first hurdle? The very thought that it probably had depressed me even further.
Over a month later, I was again sitting at my desk and facing a now-familiar dilemma. What was I going to do to get out of the malaise my life was currently in?
While I sat there debating the options, my phone started to ring. A quick glance at the screen told me it was from a private number, another bloody call centre, I guessed as I declined the call.
Less than a minute later, I heard the familiar beep that indicated a voicemail had been left. Strange, I thought as I picked up the phone and dialled my answerphone, those call centres don’t usually leave voice messages. And as I listened, my heart began to beat more quickly. The voice at the end of the line was from a casting researcher at Pointless who wanted me to ring them back!
And to cut a long story short, my wife and I seemed to impress them on that phone call, Cathy being rung moments after me.
Our successful telephone audition led us to a hotel in Cardiff a week later for a face-to-face audition.
Now, this was the scary bit. Not only did we have to impress the researchers there, but we also had to do it in front of a room of 30 other hopeful contestants.
I’m quiet by nature but knew I had to shine here and create a persona that the TV execs wanted on their show. Having my wife there helped me as she is naturally more outgoing and chattier than me. I treated that day as a job interview, I knew I had to impress, and that’s precisely what we did as a couple of months later we were at the BBC Television Centre in London recording our episode of Pointless.
It was a day I’d never forget as we came away with a Pointless trophy and the jackpot!
So how does appearing on a daytime quiz show lead to me writing my first novel, I hear you ask.
Well, since that first quiz show appearance in 2011, I’ve auditioned and appeared in many more shows with various degrees of success. Quizzing has become a great passion, and I love to appear on TV to show off my knowledge and test myself against other great quizzers.
I’m also convinced that appearing on them vastly improved my confidence and helped with my mental health.
Writing a book had also been something I’d always wanted to do, but like most things, that passion had been put on the backburner with work and family life taking precedence.
Then in March 2020, lockdown happened, and my life, along with the rest of the country, changed utterly. I was ‘working from home’ permanently, and my daily commute of over 2 hours had suddenly disappeared.
Despite the awful circumstances of the pandemic and lockdown, I sensed this was an opportunity to follow that dream of writing a novel.
The only question was what to write about?
This had been a conundrum for so long and another reason why I hadn’t yet typed any words. Yet during those first few weeks of lockdown, the idea of my debut novel locked into place, and it was an idea that was staring me in the face all along if I’m being honest now. Why not write about my other great passion, that of quizzing!
And that’s what I did over the next seven months as ‘The Duel’ took shape. It incorporated the world of quizzing, which I knew well and required very little research with a murder mystery.
‘The Duel’ was self-published in November 2020 and has been well received by readers that have bought it. It’s a story I’m happy to have told at last, and I hope it may lead to a full-time writing career eventually (fingers crossed).
About Stephen Havard
Stephen Havard lives in Swansea, South Wales, with his wife and two children, he also has 2 stepchildren.
Currently working in the IT industry, he enjoys quizzing and watching Swansea City football club in his spare time.
His quizzing exploits have resulted in a few TV appearances, with varying degrees of success!
Ashley White is desperate. An ill-advised investment in cryptocurrency has left him in financial meltdown, with the bank threatening to repossess his home and a wife that knows nothing about the mess he is in.
A new quiz show called ‘The Duel’ is about to hit the TV screens, offering a mouth-watering 2 million pounds to the winner. The show is to be hosted by Patrick Reed; the scandal-hit presenter who hopes it will revive his flagging career.
Ashley hopes the show can be his way out of his financial problems and does all that is necessary to appear, even when those things have murderous intent.
Please welcome writer and blogger James M. Lane to my blog. James shares a true story about an accident that changed his life. When I read his story, it made me stop and think about the accidents I’ve had and whether they changed my life. Has an accident changed your life?
Do you believe in fate? Do you believe that life puts you in a certain position for a reason? Please welcome writer and blogger Liesbet Collaert to my blog. Will Liesbet’s true story bring back memories of a familiar position you found yourself in? Read her true story and let her know.
For many days, my heart had pounded, and I found myself in danger of being found out.
My mother couldn’t understand why I’d been getting up so early every morning, especially on a Saturday.
I can’t sleep, I told her.
Whereas what I’d been waiting for so early every morning was the postman.
But that Saturday morning was a saviour for me because the postman sometimes arrived after I’d gone to work.
As the mail fell through the letterbox, it was only the large, brown envelope I snatched and took upstairs to my bedroom.
My hands shook as I quietly opened the envelope, thinking that any sound I made would wake up the entire household. As I took out the contents, the newspaper’s title, ‘Gay News’, in large bold letters, pierced my eyes.
Barely able to open the pages, because my hands were still shaking, my eyes darted all over the pages taking in a ‘life’ I knew I belonged to, but of which I’d had little experience. It was unlike any newspaper I’d ever read. It was like entering a new yet, familiar world.
Some 45-minutes later, I’d read just over three-quarters. While my fingers and hands showed evidence of newspaper print, I picked up the large brown envelope and gazed at the postmark – London.
Immediately thinking that London was the place where all gay people lived, I started making plans in my head of a trip. I’d never been, yet I somehow knew London would be the destination where I would work and live one day.
Turning my attention to the newspaper again, I scanned one of the back pages I’d not read. These were the kinds of adverts I remember reading.
For sale – Leather jacket and Muir cap, hardly worn, VG condition – £35 ONO (or nearest offer). Contact Jack at Box 625S, Gay News, London…
For rent – Lovely cosy room, in a large house with three other guys. NW10 area, only a few minutes to underground and good bus service. £15 a week, plus contributions towards bills. Contact Mike at Box 489A, Gay News, London…
Wanted – models for top-earning film studios. Must be good looking and over 21. Send full details of yourself and a photo to Box907W, Gay News, London…
Many adverts like those above covered the page, but others took my interest more.
Lonely, 33, good-looking, short hair, moustache, 5ft 9′, good sense of humour, looking for a younger boyfriend to go out with and have fun with. 21-30 only, no older guys, sorry. Will only reply to letters that include a photograph. Contact Clive at Box D212, Gay News, London…
28, just out of a relationship, short, blond hair, cleanshaven, fit, told good looking, non-smoker, Earl’s Court, London, area, looking for a new boyfriend. Age (21 – 80) and looks unimportant. Please include a photo with your reply. Contact Adam at Box D213, Gay News, London…
Bear, 55, looking for a younger (21+) cub to cuddle and have fun with. Must have facial hair and a hairy chest. Bristol area, but willing to travel for the right cub. Your photo gets mine. Contact Steve at Box D214, Gay News, London…
It wouldn’t be long before I discovered what a bear and cub were in the gay world. It also would not be long before I found that not everything in lonely hearts adverts was what I thought it was.
There were many adverts, and even though I was only 17, I started thinking seriously about placing one. It would be risky, but all I wanted to do was make some gay friends.
I noticed another advert before folding the paper and placing it back in the envelope.
South Wales area – genuine, nice guy in his early 40s, looking to meet other guys who haven’t come out yet. Maybe we could help each other? Write to Richard at Box 223D, Gay News, London…
Lifting a corner of carpet under my bed and placing the large, brown envelope and its contents under it, Richard remained on my mind for the rest of the weekend.
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As a gay man, you may be surprised to hear that one of the biggest hurdles I faced was going into a gay bar for the first time.
At 17-years-old, I was in awe of my straight mates. They’d been wandering into bars and nightclubs for the last year with the only threat of getting asked for age identification.
At 17-years-old, my straight mates were not only getting drunk most Friday and Saturday nights but were boasting about sleeping around with members of the opposite sex without any worry. Whether they’d slept with many of those they mentioned was open to debate.
At 17-years-old, it was against the law for me to sleep with a person of the same sex. If I boasted about it, I could get myself into trouble. The law stated that, for my safety, sex remained on hold until I reached 21.
Of course, I overlooked that particular part of the law. Like any red-blooded male at 17, my hormones made my brain think of little else but wanting to (putting it mildly) get laid.
By the time I reached my 19th birthday, I already had what I had considered a boyfriend. He was over the age of 21 and thought I was too.
On one particular, wet Saturday evening, I found myself sitting in my boyfriend’s car. Holding hands with him, we listened to the patter of the rain on the roof as we watched the raindrops splatter on the windscreen. For weeks, we’d both built up the courage to go to a gay bar for the first time.
The bar was out of town and miles from where we lived. However, neither of us wanted to get out of the car and walk up the steps to the bar. Instead, we both sat there trying our best to peer through the spattering of rain, trying to make out the figures going into the bar.
“It’s nice and warm in here,” I said.
“Yeah, too wet to go outside,” responded my boyfriend.
For the next half an hour, we made an excuse after an excuse as to why we should stay in the car. Even though curiosity ran through our minds of what was on the other side of the doors to the gay bar, our bodies remained fixed to seats while we continued peering at figures entering and exiting the bar.
“What if we bump into somebody in there who recognises us?” asked my boyfriend. “If there’s somebody in there from work, I could end up getting beaten up or sacked.”
Not only did those words cut me in half, but I began to worry that if the police raided the bar, my boyfriend and I would be in serious trouble because of my age.
Although at 19-years-old, it wasn’t against the law for me to go into a bar, I questioned if it was against the law for me to hold hands with another man in a public place.
Terrified of the consequences of entering a world where people would have welcomed and accepted us for who we were, we drove off and went home. Hiding who we were and how we lived our lives seemed a much safer option.
It would be months later when I talked about that night again.
“If somebody you worked with had been in that bar, wouldn’t they have been as terrified as we were at being spotted?” I asked.
“I never thought of that,” came the reply. “But it’s still a risk, isn’t it?”
Six years later, as I made my way on a coach to a new life, I left behind a boyfriend who had been secretly sleeping with another man he worked with.
Have you ever been terrified to do something or go somewhere for the first time? Please share the details in the comments sectionor, even better, contact me about submitting your story as a guest post.
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I’m delighted to welcome Judith Barrow to my blog today, who shares a true story about the perils of holiday letting an apartment.
Having read some of Judith’s other stories of holiday letting, there’s always a humorous side to them which I believe would not only make a fanatics book, but a television comedy show.
Will Judith’s story have you laughing as much as I did when I read it?
For many years we summer let the apartment which is attached to our house.
We had many visitors from other countries staying in our apartment and shared great times with them.
Couples from the USA, Australia enjoyed barbeques on the lawn; long boozy evenings of wine and slightly burned kebabs and steaks, of tall tales and laughter.
Visits to restaurants with people from France and Italy. Long walks and talks on the coastal paths with a couple from New Zealand that we’d met from there on holiday in Christchurch, followed by drinks in local pubs.
We had a German man stay with us for three weeks who’d come to participate in the Iron Man Wales event. He’d worked hard for twelve months, he told us and had to acclimatise himself to the course. Three days before the event, he caught a chest infection and had to drop out. Despite his anti-biotics, he still needed to join Husband in a double whisky that night.
Oh dear, I’m sensing a common theme here.
This is the story of our last visitor for the season one year.
He was a single man. We’ve had people come on holiday alone many times over the years and thought nothing of it. When he arrived, we quickly realised he could only speak a little English, and we couldn’t speak his language at all.
He hadn’t been in the apartment before he came to the door brandishing an empty bottle of washing up liquid.
“Oh, sorry,” I said, “I thought there was plenty in it.”
An hour later, washing powder was asked for by a demonstration of vigorous scrubbing at a pair of underpants.
“There’s a box of it under the sink.”
Sunday brought him to the door twice. First, with the sugar bowl.
Then the salt cellar.
“I thought I’d filled it—”
‘Used it’ quickly became the watchword whenever we supplied tea bags, vinegar or handing over shoe polish.
Monday, he arrived with an empty tube of glue.
“Sorry, we don’t supply glue.”
He stands, smiling, waggling the tube. “Used it.”
Husband went into his Man Drawer and produced a tube of Super Glue. Scowling. We never found out what the man wanted it for, even though Husband examined everything he could that would need to be stuck the following weekend.
Each day, at least once, the man came to the door to ask for something by waving the empty bottle, carton, container or label at us. Unlike most holidaymakers, he didn’t knock on the back door but always came round to ring the doorbell at the front. In the end, Husband and I would peer through the hall window.
“It’s Mr Used It,” one of us would say. “It’s your turn to go.” Pushing at one another. “You see what he wants this time.”
On Wednesday, he arrived with a cardboard roll.
“There are six more toilet rolls in the bathroom cabinet to the right of the hand basin,” I offered helpfully.
Seven rolls of toilet paper usually last a couple the whole week. I handed over four more.
“What’s happening in there,” Husband grumbled, “do-it-yourself colonic irrigation?”
On Friday, Husband produced a list. “We should charge for this lot,” he declared. “See?”
It read like a shopping list: milk/salt/sugar/vinegar/butter/tea bags/ coffee/soap/soap powder/toilet paper/shampoo/glue/shoe polish.
“Really?” I said, even though I knew the chap had been a pest. “You’ve been keeping tabs on our guest?”
“Too true.” The husband was indignant. “We could even charge him for overuse of the battery in the doorbell.”
“Except that it’s connected to the electricity.”
“Even worse!” Husband grumped off to his shed.
Saturday morning came, and the doorbell rang. Smiling, the man put his suitcase down onto the ground and, vigorously, shook hands with both of us. He waved towards the apartment.
“Used it,” he said. “Very nice.”
About Judith Barrow
Judith Barrow is originally from Saddleworth, a group of villages on the edge of the Pennines, in the UK. She now lives with her husband and family in Pembrokeshire, Wales, where she has lived for over forty years.
Judith has an MA in Creative Writing with the University of Wales Trinity St David’s College, Carmarthen. She also has BA (Hons) in Literature with the Open University, a Diploma in Drama from Swansea University.
She is a Creative Writing tutor for Pembrokeshire County Council and holds private one to one workshops on all genres.
She has written all her life and has had short stories, poems, plays, reviews and articles published throughout the British Isles. She only started to seriously write novels after having breast cancer twenty years ago.
When not writing or teaching, she enjoys doing research for her writing, walking the Pembrokeshire coastline and reading and reviewing books.
1914 – and everything changes for Jessie on a day trip to Blackpool. She realises her true feelings for her childhood friend, Arthur. Then just as they are travelling home from this rare treat, war is declared.
Arthur lies about his age to join his Pals’ Regiment. Jessie’s widowed mother is so frightened of the future, she agrees to marry the vicious Amos Morgan, making Jessie’s home an unsafe place for her.
Before he leaves, Arthur and Jessie admit their feelings and promise to wait for each other. Arthur gives Jessie a heart-shaped stone to remember him. But with Arthur far away, their love leaves Jessie with a secret that will see her thrown from her home and terribly abused when she can hide the truth no longer. Faced with a desperate choice between love and safety, Jessie must fight for survival, whatever the cost.
Click on the book cover to buy The Heart Stone
More Books from Judith
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My thanks to Judith for writing this guest post.
If you have any questions or comments for Judith, please leave them in the comments section. She’d be delighted to hear from you.
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I’m delighted to welcome Sally Cronin to my blog today, sharing a true story that had me laughing all day after I read it. It bought back many happy memories of a similar nature for me, especially some of the parts I played in school plays and amateur dramatics.
Many of you will know Sally from her successful blog where she is constantly helping to promote the works of bloggers, authors and writers alike.
Will Sally’s story have you as staged-struck and laughing in the aisles as I was after reading it?
My two sisters who were ten and eleven years older than I was, both trained as secretaries, which led to them having some interesting and high level jobs over the years.
However, I decided at an early age that I wanted to be a singer and actress! The desire to follow this career path was my mother’s fault really. Apart from the fact that she had a bit of a flair for the dramatic, she manipulated me into being her co-conspirator every Saturday afternoon.
My father loved football, and after he had cooked us one of his Spaghetti Bolognese lunches, followed by steamed treacle duff as he called them, we would retire to the lounge where our television took pride of place. I would have been about seven or eight at the time and my mother would coerce me into facilitating her viewing pleasure; the Saturday afternoon musical on BBC2.
Of course this conflicted with the afternoon football offering by Grandstand on BBC1. Fortunately my father had a weakness. Stoked up with carbohydrates and sugars from lunch, within 10 minutes of the match starting, he would be stretched out in his recliner, snoring.
In the good old days it was necessary to get up and down to switch channels, and this is where I came in.
As soon as my father began snoring, my mother would nudge me, and I would creep across the carpet to turn the channel over to BBC2 and the Saturday musical. Things did get a little hectic at times if there was a temporary change to my father’s breathing. At a shove from my mother, I would leap up from the sofa, dash across the room and switch channels back to the football. My father would watch blearily for about five minutes then resume his afternoon nap.
This would happen several times during the course of the movie, and as the final credits scrolled up the screen, I would turn the channel back over to BBC 1. My father would wake up to enjoy the cup of tea my mother had made, convinced he had watched 90 minutes of fancy footwork, but not the kind we had been watching.
This Saturday afternoon ritual fuelled my love of dancing and singing. My heart and soul burned to be the lead, dancing and singing my way through the performances like Ginger Rogers, Esther Williams (yes I would have done synchronised swimming if called for) Deborah Kerr, Mitzi Gaynor etc.
I had seen South Pacific at age ten and I would have even taken the role of Bloody Mary given half the chance. I knew all the lyrics from all the popular musicals of the day and wept buckets as John Kerr lip synched to “Younger than Springtime”; and I could perform all the songs from the Sound of Music.
Over the next few years I was lucky enough to be cast in a number of school plays. Being tall for my age, it usually involved me standing completely still for thirty minutes in the guise of a tree or some other inanimate object.
I did attempt to achieve some form of recognition for my talents, which included dressing in Swiss costume and dragging one of my friends around to old people’s homes to entertain the residents with the songs from The Sound of Music (they were very appreciative, let me tell you!).
This did not impress my parents, who were adamant that when I left school, I must train as a secretary, as drama was not a profession to be relied on.
I left school in September 1969 at age 16 and enrolled in technical college for a year’s secretarial course. Over the course of the next twelve months, I became very proficient in shorthand and typing, but it was the extra classes we took in English that I enjoyed the most.
Our teacher also taught drama, and had trained more than a few successful actors and actresses over the years. To my delight, she was casting for that year’s drama production which was the operetta “Passion Flower”, based on the story of Carmen, but adapted for the amateur stage.
Without informing my parents I auditioned. I was rather expecting to be cast as part of the scenery again, but you can imagine my absolute thrill when our producer chose me to play Micaela – Carmen’s rival for the matador’s affections. Something that I kept from my parents, and they assumed I would be part of the chorus as usual.
Police cadets did their initial training at the college, and several of these were roped in to play the soldiers. Our producer recruited outside talent from her drama group to play the leads including an Australian dentist in his mid-thirties who took on the role of the matador, Escamillo, and a wonderful young singer called Julie took the part of Carmen.
The performances ran for three nights, and by the final evening I had almost conquered my nerves, despite the fact there were two very important people in the audience. I had persuaded my parents to come on the last night, with the expectation that it was likely to be the most flawless performance of the three.
I was desperately hoping that if they saw how passionate I was about acting (and my talent); they might relent in their objections to me attending drama school.
I can still remember standing in the wings that night, knees quaking as I prepared for the cat fight with Carmen, followed by being manhandled by the soldiers as they pulled us apart enthusiastically.
All was going very well until we reached the final scene when Escamillo threw a rose onto poor dead Carmen’s body, having been stabbed by a former lover, and then pulled me into his arms for a passionate kiss!
Unbeknownst to the rest of the cast, our lead actor had been celebrating the end to the run by consuming a number of cans of beer hidden in the wings. This certainly gave his performance some extra gusto which our producer put down to exuberance. As I swanned across the stage and into his arms for the expected stage kiss, he bent me over backwards and gave me a hearty smacker, before picking me up and rushing off stage.
Cue a very loud gasp from the cast clustered around poor Carmen’s corpse and from the front row where my mother and father were seated with other VIP guests. I can only assume they had already been taken aback by my starring role as a floozy, in an off the shoulder blouse, big earrings and a penchant for men in uniform.
I also had an inkling that these last few minutes had not gone down well. My erstwhile suitor and I joined the cast and clasped hands, bowing in appreciation of the applause. All I could focus on was my father, arms crossed with a very frosty look on his face.
My mother told me later that my father had turned to her and shouted over the applause, ‘Who is that man and what was he up to with our daughter?” At this point, a woman who was sat next to my mother announced furiously ‘That would be my husband.”
As you can imagine, this fiasco did not further my ambitions to be allowed to attend drama school. Two weeks later, when I had graduated with my secretarial diploma, the evening paper’s employment section was strategically placed next to my beans on toast for supper. Probably for the best, as I have enjoyed a wonderful variety of jobs across a number of industries including broadcasting.
However, my love of musicals has never diminished, and who knows… maybe one day!
About Sally Cronin
After a career in customer facing roles in the hospitality, retail, advertising and telecommunications industry, Sally wrote and published her first book in 1999 called Size Matters, about her weight loss journey, losing 150lbs in 18 months. This was followed by 13 further fiction and non-fiction books, including a number of short story collections.
Sally’s aim was to create a watering hole on her blog to provide a wide number of topics to chat about…..This year in September 2021, Smorgasbord in its current format, celebrated its 8th anniversary.
As important as her own promotion is, Sally believes it’s important to support others within our community. She offers a number of FREE promotional opportunities on her blog, linked to social media.
Having lived a nomadic existence most of her life, Sally is now settled on the coast of Wexford in Southern Ireland with her husband of 40 years, enjoying the odd sunny day and the rain that puts the Emerald in the Isles.
Sally’sLatest Book – Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries: Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet
Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries: Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet is a collection of short stories with scattered poetry, reflecting the complexities of life, love and loss.
The stories in the collection dip into the lives of men and women who are faced with an ‘event’ that is challenging and in some cases life changing.
Even something as straightforward as grocery shopping online can be frustrating, and a DNA test produces surprise results, the past reaches out to embrace the present, and a gardening assistant is an unlikely grief counsellor. Romance is not always for the faint-hearted and you are never too old for love. Random acts of kindness have far reaching consequences and some people discover they are on a lucky streak. There are those watching over us who wish us well, and those in our lives who wish us harm.